By Sarah Mabley
Mayor Rod Davies presented the city's plan for the new development of the downtown district in Monmouth, Illinois this week. Along with the mayor, City Administrator John Cratty and Director of City Development Paul Schuytema each spoke of the opportunity to ¨strike while the iron is hot¨ in the downtown district.
According to Davies, City Hall sees new growth opportunities for downtown in retail, dining, and cultural activities in the heart of our community¨. He said that his administration sees very real ways to leverage the limited TIF income and continue development. He also said that there is clearly a benefit to all of the downtown residential population. There is an opportunity for downtown to grow into a real destination for retail, dining, and cultural activities.
¨There are a lot of moving places but the upside to our community is huge. It´s a challenge we can face head on if we can see the destination of a vibrant, thriving town. It´s where we live, it´s Monmouth¨ Davies said. His comments were made to about 40 members of the Monmouth Rotary Club who attended the weekly meeting.
Another speaker at the Monmouth weekly meeting of the Monmouth Rotary Club was Paul Schuytema who discussed real prospects for the new development to the downtown district. The vision for downtown Monmouth is of an exciting and vibrant retail district in the same vein as Seminary Street in Galesburg, Illinois, Schuytema said. ¨We are trying to re-imagine our downtown as something that will work in our small, rural community¨. He pointed out that targeted businesses are one way to bring business downtown. Loft apartments, cultural activities, and retail businesses will be major pull factors set for another generation, according to Schuytema.¨If we had talked about 2 years ago, renovating 12 buildings in this economy in the state of Illinois we would have been run out of town on a rail¨, Schuytema continued. He said that City Hall is thinking beyond into the real future.
¨What we are trying to do is map a course so we are always playing a couple of chess moves ahead. Plans are being made down the road. Yes it´s kinda scary but we´d rather have the problem to find the people to occupy the retail stores than find the 5 to 10 million dollars that it is going to take to get these building up to code¨, he summarized.
John Cratty was last to take the podium talked about why new development makes long term sense for the communit. He said a major goal is to get the old buildings up to code, and to spur future economic growth. He addressed the challenges because of the slow economy in the state of Illinois. However, according to Cratty new development is an investment in the future because it prevents major costs. When old buildings are left to themselves, they suffer costs to the community of Monmouth. For example, a small building fire could cost the city millions of city dollars, Cratty explained. Cratty used to be the fire chief in Galesburg, Illinois. ¨No matter how bad the state is doing, we still have to serve and protect the people of Monmouth¨